Tax sugary drinks to fight obesity, WHO urges govts

In this May 18, 2016 photo, sodas and energy drinks are stacked and line the shelves in a grocery store in Springfield, Illinois. (AP)
Updated 12 October 2016

Tax sugary drinks to fight obesity, WHO urges govts

GENEVA: Governments should tax sugary drinks to fight the global epidemics of obesity and diabetes, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday, recommendations industry swiftly branded “discriminatory” and “unproven.”
A 20 percent price increase could reduce consumption of sweet drinks by the same proportion, the WHO said in “Fiscal Policies for Diet and Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases,” a report issued on World Obesity Day.
Drinking fewer calorific sweet drinks is the best way to curb excessive weight and prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, although fat and salt in processed foods are also at fault, WHO officials said.
“We are now in a place where we can say there is enough evidence to move on this and we encourage countries to implement effective tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to prevent obesity,” Temo Waqanivalu, of WHO’s department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Health Promotion, told a briefing.
Obesity more than doubled worldwide between 1980 and 2014, with 11 percent of men and 15 percent of women classified as obese — more than 500 million people, the report said.
“Smart policies can help to turn the tides on this deadly epidemic, especially those aimed at reducing consumption of sugary drinks, which is fueling obesity rates,” former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a WHO ambassador for noncommunicable diseases, said in a statement.
The global soft drink market is worth nearly $870 billion in annual sales. 2016 could be the year of the sugar tax, as several large nations consider levies on sweetened food and drinks to battle obesity and fatten government coffers.
The US-based soft drinks industry’s lobbying arm — whose members include Coca-Cola Co, Pepsico Inc. and Red Bull — strongly disagreed with what it called “discriminatory taxation.”
“It is an unproven idea that has not been shown to improve public health based on global experiences to date,” the Washington-based International Council of Beverages Associations said in a statement. A comprehensive approach based on the whole diet was needed for a lasting solution to obesity, it said.
The non-alcoholic beverage industry was making available more options with fewer calories and reformulating existing drinks to reduce calories significantly, the group said.
An estimated 42 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese in 2015, said Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s nutrition and health department, an increase of about 11 million over 15 years.
The United States has the most obesity per capita, but China has similar absolute numbers, Branca said, voicing fears that the epidemic could spread to sub-Saharan Africa.
The WHO said there was increasing evidence that taxes and subsidies influence purchasing behavior and could be used to curb consumption of sweet drinks.


Bodies recovered near Greek island after chopper crash

Updated 20 August 2019

Bodies recovered near Greek island after chopper crash

  • 2 Russian passengers and a Greek pilot were on board
  • Chopper hit powerlines knocking out island’s electricity supply

ATHENS: The bodies of three men were recovered near the Greek island of Poros on Tuesday after a private helicopter crashed through power cables and into the sea, state agency ANA said.
Coast Guard spokesman Nikos Lagadianos said a total of three people were believed to have been on board — a Greek pilot and two foreign passengers.
ANA said the two foreigners were Russian.
A local official had earlier said the crash knocked out power across the small island.
“There was a great flash and the helicopter’s fuel exploded,” deputy Poros mayor Yiorgos Koutouzis told state TV ERT.
“It hit power cables around a 100 meters (yards) from the sea,” he said, adding: “The island is now without electricity.”
The helicopter fell shortly after takeoff from Galata, the nearest coastal village on the mainland facing Poros, 170 kilometers (105 miles) southwest of Athens.
The coast guard said search crews, including six of its vessels, divers and a rescue helicopter, were examining the wreckage site.
Poros is a small picturesque island off the eastern coast of the Peloponnese that is popular with holidaymakers.